What communication work are you doing now?
As part of Colectivo Flatlander, I’ve been working with all types of groups and individuals on their media/communications needs, in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. 50% of our trainings are in Spanish. A recent training we did in Houston included faith-based, labor, community media, activist, and immigrant groups. The skills-based training helped them understand media as an overall organizing strategy- how to respond to the attacks from Border Watch and the Minutemen? How to refine our messages? How to think broadly on the issue? How to get the media you want?
How did you get started doing communication work?
I volunteered with United for a Fair Economy (UFE) with their communications team after I was unfairly fired as a temp worker in 1999- doing some of the back-end work. I was later hired as a communications assistant to Betsy Leondar-Wright, UFE’s Director of Communications. That’s where I picked up much of my basic media skills, such as writing a press release and making pitch calls. I really learned a lot from UFE, from people like Betsy, Holly Sklar, and Chuck Collins. I remembered how Holly just picked apart my first press release!
Why is communication work important for change making and/or organizing?
It could change a debate. It could also generate interest on an issue where it seems hopeless. At UFE I saw how an effective communications strategy shifted the debate on the “death tax” issue. It gives people the tools to take action. I think the estates tax would be gone by now if it wasn’t for UFE’s public awareness campaign.
What is it that you most enjoy about doing communications?
I like seeing how an issue plays out on a campaign- how people making change. I enjoy seeing the people you trained speaking out, taking action and winning!
What is your greatest challenge?
Personally, resources and capacity to do the work- to meet the needs of all the groups and people I’m working with. My work with Colectivo is mostly voluntary. We hardly have resources to pay for the space, traveling, and related costs for the trainings. Many of the people I’m training are just everyday folks. I want to be able help more of them understand the structural issues, share with them the tools to respond, and to connect with others with resources to help.
When you were a kid did you think you were going to be doing this type of work?
No, not at all. When I was growing up in Laredo, Texas, I was more interested in running. I wanted to go to college and run cross country…although I did get inspired [politically] by my American Politics professor who talked about Reagan’s other America
Why are you a PCN member?
I like PCN’s mission and their goal of supporting grassroots voices. When I was with ACE (Alternatives for Community and Environment) I asked Tom, who’s a PCN member in Boston, for some help on a community media training I was organizing. He just handed me one of his power point presentations. I was wondering- what’s the catch? PCN members are always ready to share their resources and support the people who are doing the work [on the ground.] I also found it rewarding that they respect the work I do and readily include me in their strategic discussions.